‘I think what makes it sound like the same band is that we’re not betraying our instinct to challenge our idea of what the band can be.’Alex Turner to Rolling Stone
Some aren’t going to like this at all. Others will despair. Already comments are appearing about worries that the Arctic Monkeys will never be ‘good’ again.
Well, define ‘good’. We all have our truth. Mine encompasses most of the Arctic Monkeys – from a thought that you might look good on the dance floor to a fictional sumptuous hotel and tranquillity base.
It has to be accepted that Arctic Monkeys’ last album, 2018’s ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ was a departure. It didn’t have much Rock if any, it had lounge, it had Prog, it had a stretching out, and it was an itchy feet album. Bands don’t stand still. If they do, they die. Or they’re AD/DC, a sort of heritage Rock act, who are much loved, and rightly so.
Alex Turner, mainman for the Arctic Monkeys, started when he was a teenager; things change, nothing stays the same, and music is heard and enjoyed, then abilities and experience grow to allow that music to be touched, used, and worked with.
We all have our favourite albums and it’s easy to place bands in aspic or wish they were still that way – I understand that, I wish Queen were still the disco band that made ‘Hot Space’ – who’s with me?….
Oh, just me then.
Arctic Monkeys presents The Car
There were rumblings that this Arctic Monkeys album would be a little more guitar-based, a little rockier. Nope. This is a torn tinsel curtain, an empty club, anguish dressed up as loutishness.
Opening with ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ is a bold move, its Burt Bacharach intention, the woozy synth string sound at the back of it, the complete lack of irony, no winking, no ‘good this, isn’t it?’ feel – this matters, it’s a statement.
That’s not all, there’s another sound here, Soul and Funk; it’s there in the squelchy backing to ‘I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am’ and sweet feel to ‘Jet Skis On The Moat’. This is undeniably 70’s style and at the gentler end of Funk and Soul – it brings to mind Lonnie Liston Smith, which is no bad thing.
Talking of that great decade, there’s even a touch of Plastic Soul, that wonderful Bowie wowie from the ‘Young Americans’ album, ‘Hello You’ visits there before being lifted on piano and strings. The Slate put it like this;
‘The psychedelic “Hello You,” on the other hand, buzzes along to a tropical rhythm and an infectious musical refrain that lodges itself into your psyche.’
There’s More Than Just Soul
This music isn’t there to just wind down or frug to, there’s a general feeling that things are not all you thought, wooziness hands around and Turner takes his reportage for a walk when giving us his cracked, disconnected narrative – when that lays over the top of this music, strange and wonderful things happen, the cabaret feel of the title track is punctured by a sudden squall of a guitar.
The strings are used here to add bounce, but this isn’t what you’d call jaunty. The Car has a relaxed but listless quality, a sense of finding oneself in a place that seemed desirable but now seems too open and easy, just as we see on the cover one car in a big space.
As The Guardian said;
‘…this time the sound is largely strings, sultriness, honeyed soul, Turner taking the lounge singer tradition and twisting it this way and that.’
As a comment on the strictures and expectations of the music biz, this is well-wrought, but Alex Turner and the Arctic Monkeys might not want to stay there for another album.